2015 Patients of Courage
Suzanne Zaccone of Hinsdale, Ill., underwent a mastectomy and radiation as well as a delayed right breast reconstruction with a stacked DIEP/SIEA flap.
Three weeks after returning home from the hospital, Suzanne began to blog about her experience, sharing her story with a growing number of followers who began to rely on Suzanne's informative posts and count on her cheery disposition. Suzanne eventually turned her posts into a book, "A Random Interruption: Surviving Breast Cancer with Laughter, Vodka, Smoothies and an Attitude," which she self-published in 2009. Suzanne donated the book's proceeds to The University of Chicago Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, where she and her foundation has established the Zaccone Family Microsurgery Fellowship. Suzanne has given more than $600,000 to support the training of six fellows in advanced techniques in reconstructive microsurgery.
The Zaccone Family Microsurgery Fellows are now practicing around the United States and the world, including South Dakota, North Carolina, Illinois, Rhode Island, Israel and Spain. Suzanne is now working on the second edition of her book and continues to be a steadfast advocate for women who have concerns over breast surgery and reconstruction. Recently, Suzanne was diagnosed with cancer in her left breast. True to form, she beat the disease with her usual aplomb and positive attitude. She is a portrait of generosity, positivity and courage.
A recent Rutgers University graduate and a promising musician, New Jersey resident Gabriel Hurley suffered a horrific accident in 2009, when the car he was driving while running some errands was hit by a reckless teen driver. Gabriel suffered massive facial trauma, including panfacial fractures with bilateral globe ruptures. He underwent multiple reconstructive facial surgeries and had been rendered completely blind from his ocular injuries.
Through relentless rehabilitation and numerous reconstructive procedures, Gabriel began to recover, never letting his facial disfigurement or his blindness take over his life. With the help of his mother, Gabriel regained his independence over the next few years. He decided to share his story and talk about the importance of responsible driving to more than 100 groups, usually high school students on the cusp of getting their driver's licenses.
Last year, Gabriel was awarded the "Inspiration Award" by the New Jersey division of Safe Driving at the Nikhil Badlani Foundation's third annual 5K Run/Walk, an event held to help prevent reckless youth driving. Gabriel, 30, has continued his passion for music as a guitarist with his band, The New Black. He has recently written and inspired a music video portraying life after loss of eyesight and facial disfigurement.
Army Sgt. Adam Keys
Army Sgt. Adam Keys, 31, was injured in 2010 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when an IED similar to the numerous others he and his fellow soldiers specialized in finding and disarming, was detonated from a remote location.
Adam, the only one to survive the explosion, lost both legs above the knee and his left arm due to infections. He spent the next several months at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md, enduring more than 130 surgeries on his road to recovery.
Adam's determination to get better has been nothing short of amazing. Through extensive physical therapy, he is now able to walk without the use of a cane or crutches. Adam regularly engages in various athletic activities, including hand-cycling, swimming and push-ups.
In April, Adam finished the Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 18 minutes, an incredible feat considering Adam's original injuries and infections were so severe that his core muscles were rendered practically useless. His recovery has enabled him to take care of himself, traveling in and out of his wheelchair.
Adam is an inspiration to those who know him, visiting patients in local children's hospitals, where he shares his experiences with others.
Juliana James, known as Lily to her friends and family, nearly lost both of her feet in a boating accident in 2010 when she was 7 years old.
Lily's right foot, which was attached only by tendons, was successfully replanted. After several additional surgeries and reconstructive flaps, Lily was able to walk again and resume her favorite activities, including skiing, gymnastics and most recently, lacrosse, in which she is the leading scorer for her middle school.
Lily is an amazing example of someone who has triumphed over adversity and who has become stronger as a result of her experience. Lily is always prepared to give back to her community, running a lemonade stand to benefit Harborview Medical Center and Medic One. Lily's family has been a strong pillar of support for their daughter and for the community. Lily's father, the founder and CEO of TOPICS Entertainment, is establishing an endowment at the University of Washington and Harborview Medical Center, the Lily James Endowment for Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, to support research and faculty development at Harborview in reconstructive plastic surgery, so that other patients may be able to receive vital services well into the future.